Relationships define our lives. Relationships bring meaning to our lives. Relationships bring a level of satisfaction to our lives that no video game or movie can reproduce when they go well.
Relationships always involve more than ourselves. Some relationships come with definitions, expectations, and boundaries. You are part of these types of relationships when you are at work or volunteering in a non-profit group for example, or even as part of a family. Other relationships have no definitions or boundaries. Friendships start off this way. These types of relationships are much more informal.
We have a bad habit in that most all of our relationships start up with expectations. Our expectations that many times border on being selfish. Whether it is on our job, volunteering, or “off line” with friends we all make the mistake of expecting someone else to act a certain way towards us.
We weaken our ability to connect when we bring with us our expectations of how things should go when interacting with someone else.
We weaken our ability to connect when we compare our interactions with those of others expecting them to be the same.
We weaken our ability to connect when we choose not to trust the other person during our contact with them because we are uncertain that they will “live up to” to what we expect them to be like towards us.
How many times do we hear this happened to me or that happened to me and it was “because of them”? This is so wrong. You see, what I have learned during my life’s journey is that the “success” of any relationship does not depend on the other person but rather on myself.
Every contact you have with another person, no matter how brief, is a relationship. How I choose to approach that moment of contact is really up to me not them. Your level of engagement with the other person will be determined by how much you try to make the other person smile, or think, or laugh. The more you think of you during that moment of contact you have lost. You need to let the other person “be themselves”. Good or bad.
To further show the complexity of relationships, the other person will be different than we are whenever we are in contact with another person so that their responses to us may surprise or challenge us. We can’t control their responses or their level of interest in us. We have to stop thinking that we can.
Because their responses could be so different than what we expect, we now need the skill of listening to try to better understand and appreciate the other person. We have to stop thinking up our next sentence but rather wait and hear what they are trying to tell us. This is a core skill of being spontaneous.
We are not very good most times with our words. They never quite “live up” to what we are thinking. To be spontaneous we have to be good at using our eyes to hear and our hearts to see the other person first – before we speak again.
That is why our deepest relationships, born out of love, respect or need develop over time. The rhythm, the steps, and the music flow naturally as if two people were one. This can only occur after hours and hours of practice of allowing each other the freedom to be themselves, to move naturally the way they choose and then to be right there to continue taking them in new directions.
In some ways it’s simple. In other ways it’s hard. The older I get, the more fun I have enjoying people for the individuals that they are and not for the persons I want them to be.